The Jewish and Latin communities in the United States have a deep-rooted and interconnected history that has shaped our nation’s cultural fabric. As founders of Jewtina y Co. and Olamim, we are dedicated to fostering and celebrating the bond between these two vibrant communities, as well as supporting the many Latin-Jewish families and individuals that embody the intersection of both heritages.
Our most recent collaboration, the Latin Jewish Festival, stands as a testament to the cultural vibrancy that emerges when we celebrate and cultivate Latin identity within a multiethnic Jewish community.
On Sunday, April 30, the Latin Jewish Festival took place at Urban Adamah, a Jewish educational farm in Berkeley, California, bringing together 55 multiethnic families from across the Bay Area.
Serving as a platform to honor Latin-Jewish heritage, commemorate El Dia de Los Niños (a day celebrating children in Mexican culture), and kick off Jewish-American Heritage Month, the festival showcased a diverse range of intergenerational activities and events highlighting Latin-Jewish artists, poets, chefs, educators, and musicians. The event was fully bilingual (Spanish/English), from the program handout and site signage, to all the performers and educators.
The program commenced with a musical journey through Latin America with Veronica Friedkes, Argentinian Jewish singer and educator. A short interlude featured new poetry by Sara Camahji, a Mexican-Jewish poet and Pele Residency Artist. For those arriving hungry, Coolinaria – a Mexican Jewish-owned catering company, eagerly handed out tacos and tostadas from their Bay Area food truck.
As people wandered the pathways of the farm, meandering through flowering bushes and steadily-growing crops, they discovered myriad opportunities for engaging with culture and community, from a pupusa-making station led by a grandmother-mother duo from the Vaquero-Goodman family, to crafts like tie-dye, Mexican paper flowers, and botanical print-making with Arte Nopal’s, Carla Hinojosa.
And then came the resounding blow of the shofar. Its blast called the community to celebrate this momentous occasion – the first Latin-Jewish festival in the Bay – and invited children to join a musical parade for more fun. The children’s programming featured Yoganimal (a mother-daughter yoga venture led by Diana and Flora Ben-Hur) and getting to know Urban Adamah’s farm animals. Meanwhile, adult attendees joined a community forum on multicultural family development, featuring Olamim’s research on Bay Area Latin Jewish families and heritage language and culture learning.
In the final hour of the festival, everyone gathered for a family drum circle led by Lior Ben-Hur, founder of Music by Heart, accompanied by a Mexican-inspired meal prepared by Urban Adamah’s talented kitchen team.
Diversity in Bay Area Jewish households
The Latin Jewish Festival welcomed not only Latin-Jewish families but also embraced multiethnic families seeking to experience Judaism through a multicultural lens. According to the 2021 Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities, a significant proportion (25%) of Bay Area Jewish households includes individuals of Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, Middle Eastern, or mixed backgrounds, particularly families with young children.
Linguistically, the region is home to 160 spoken languages, and Early Edge California reports that nearly 60% aged children five and under in California live in households where a language other than English is spoken. These statistics, combined with the region’s overall cultural diversity and high percentage of non-White population (57.6%), motivated us to model community offerings that celebrate diverse cultural expressions and heritages.
As immigrant women from Latin America, we intimately understand the challenges faced by immigrant families, and those with mixed heritages, in preserving their cultural roots. Jewtina y Co. was founded as a means to organize Latin-Jews across the United States, explore the intricacies of multicultural identity through culturally-responsive program and cohort experiences, and foster a resilient and inclusive Latin-Jewish community.
Olamim, on the other hand, has been working locally to gather Latin-Jewish and Spanish-speaking families in the East Bay and offer family programming year round.
For a region with limited community resources for a multiethnic, multilingual Jewish community, both of these organizations create an essential synergy. Our passionate commitment to this cause stems from a deeply personal standpoint, and we are looking forward to continuing our collaborative efforts in building an even more inclusive and diverse Jewish community that celebrates the unique contributions of all its members in the Bay Area and beyond.
The families and community leaders that made our festival a success did not appear randomly off listservs or social media posts, but were the natural extension of relationships cultivated over time.
And this work of diversity, equity, and inclusion demands nothing less than a profound love and unwavering dedication to the myriad of multiethnic families at the margins, often overlooked by the Jewish community when designing programs.
The resounding success of the Latin Jewish Festival speaks volumes about the transformative work undertaken by our organizations. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the partners who joined us in this endeavor, including Bend the Arc – Project Shamash, Camp Tawonga, Kehilla Community Synagogue, PJ Library Bay Area, Temple Beth Sholom, and Urban Adamah.
Through our collective efforts to create spaces where Latin Jews can unite and honor our shared heritage, we are actively working to address the erasure that multicultural Jewish families have long endured.
Analucia Lopezrevoredo is the founder and executive director of Jewtina y Co. Ariela Ronay-Jinich is the founder and executive director of Olamim.